Thursday, February 9, 2017

The press does something right

This is Joseph

We often give the media a hard time, but this coverage by the Washington Post is a nice example of being appropriately critical of the remarks of spokespeople:
Kellyanne Conway has taken “alternative facts” to a new level.
During a Thursday interview with MSNBC’s Chris Matthews, the counselor to the president defended President Trump’s travel ban related to seven majority-Muslim countries. At one point, Conway made a reference to two Iraqi refugees whom she described as the masterminds behind “the Bowling Green massacre.”
“Most people don’t know that because it didn’t get covered,” Conway said.
The Bowling Green massacre didn’t get covered because it didn’t happen. There has never been a terrorist attack in Bowling Green, Ky., carried out by Iraqi refugees or anyone else.
Now, there was a story underneath this one, but it rather defied the term "massacre", where one presumes at least one person would need to actually be killed (as opposed to a couple of arrests).  If we can trust Talking Points Memo, this was not a singular lapse. 

This can be more difficult with opinions, or difficult to prove facts.  For example, at Chaos Manor, prominent science fiction Jerry Pournelle claimed:
It is not universally agreed that universal health care is so easily attained or that it works so well; Canada’s is tempered by the proximity of US clinics which can relieve much of the waiting times, as an obvious example. But this is hardly the place to debate that.
This is much more tricky to debate.  The first sentence is obviously true (Mr. Pournelle claims it, making it clear that it is not universal).  The second point is overly broad, and it isn't clear to what extent it is occurring.  But it could be true, at least for some diseases or procedures (and is a real point in regards to Canada)

I generally presume socialized medicine works best for public health interventions and worst for elective surgery.  But this is the sort of tricky political opinion that already gets complicated, because real world evidence is complicated.  I get the decision to try and not take sides on these claims.  My personal opinion is that the US has a trivial effect as a safety valve on Canadian waiting times for most procedures, because the cost is so high.  But I could very well be incorrect.

However, I think that we should call out invented examples early and often.  The evidence is challenging enough as it is, without adding fictional evidence in as a complication to the whole thing.

Hopefully, this was a failure of recollection on an overburdened staffer dealing with a difficult transition, and not the beginning of a pattern.  

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